How to avoid the narrative fallacy

From Farnham Street:

When Brad Stone met with Jeff Bezos to solicit his cooperation for the book, Stone wasn’t prepared for one of Bezos’s questions: “How do you plan to handle the narrative fallacy?”

The narrative fallacy, Bezos explained, was a term coined by Nassim Taleb in his 2007 book The Black Swan to describe how humans are biologically inclined to turn complex realities into soothing but oversimplified stories. Taleb argues that the limitations of the human brain resulted in our species’ tendency to squeeze unrelated facts and events into cause-and-effect equations and then convert them into easily understandable narratives. These stories, Taleb wrote, shield humanity from the true randomness of the world, the chaos, of human experience, and, to some extent, the unnerving element of luck that plays into all successes and failures…

In Taleb’s book — which, incidentally, all Amazon senior executives had to read — the author stated that the way to avoid the narrative fallacy was to favor experimentation and clinical knowledge over storytelling and memory.

3 thoughts on “How to avoid the narrative fallacy

  1. Yes yes a thousand times yes!!! The narrative fallacy is a pernicious danger to good decision making. Daniel Kahaneman points out it prevents people from noticing obvious true explanations, if they don’t make a good narrative.
    For example, let’s say a difference in app user behavior vs website behavior stems from differences in the demographics that use the product. A designer can expend massive time tweaking the interfaces in the belief that something in his control is causing the behavior, because it’s so counterintuitive that an impersonal force like demographics is the true cause.
    We exaggerate the impact of intentional human initiatives, and underestimate the power of situational forces like demographics.

  2. Pingback: The self-made | changing my mind

  3. Pingback: The self-made | Trinity McQueen

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